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The missionary vocation of the Church in Africa

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 12:15

"The African Church can humbly offer the West the marvels that God has worked in her through the Holy Spirit, and the tribulations that Jesus continues to endure in the sufferings and material needs of his faithful there."

The missionary vocation of the Church in Africa

 

In an interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah, speaks about the contribution of the Church in Africa to the Universal Church, about Islam in Africa and the world, about relations between the Church and politics and the challenges facing the Church in Africa. The cardinal insists that "the Church needs unity of faith, unity of doctrine, unity of moral teaching. It needs the primacy of the Pope."

By Jürgen Liminski

What is the relationship between the African Church and the Universal Church?

Your question, as you put it to me, presents me with something of a difficulty, because in reality the Church here in Africa is part of the Universal Church and thus forms together with it a sole and single Church. Hence there is no such thing As an "African Church" and, as distinct from it, a "Universal Church". Your question makes it appear as if ecclesiology depends on a communion between the Churches, and in this you are correct. Nonetheless, we need to remember that the Universal Church is not a sort of federation of local churches. The Universal Church is symbolized and represented by the Church of Rome, with the Pope at its head, the successor of Saint Peter and the head of the apostolic college; hence it is she who has given birth to all the local churches and she who sustains them in the unity of faith and love. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch tells us (circa 110 AD) the Church of Rome is the “All-pure Church which presides in charity.” Thus it is the profession of our common faith and our fidelity to Christ and his Gospel, in union with the Pope, that enables the Church to live in communion.

Is this absolutely essential in order to avoid confusion? Can there not also exist national Churches ?

Without a common faith, the Church is threatened by confusion and then, progressively, she can slide into dispersion and schism. Today there is a grave risk of the fragmentation of the Church, of breaking up the Mystical Body of Christ by insisting on the national identities of the Churches and thus on their capacity to decide for themselves, above all in the so crucial domain of doctrine and morals. As Pope Benedict XVI tells us: “It is clear that a Church does not grow by becoming individualised, by separating on a national level, by closing herself off within a specific cultural context, by giving herself an entirely cultural or national scope; instead the Church needs to have unity of faith, unity of doctrine, unity of moral teaching. She needs the primacy of the Pope, and his mission to confirm the faith of his brethren.” Besides, Africa has always considered and seen the Church as a family, the family of God.

And what is the contribution of the Church in Africa to the Universal Church today?

In this we are faithful to the ecclesiology of the Epistle to the Ephesians: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). And even though the Church in Northern Africa is very ancient, yet today the Church in sub-Saharan Africa, sees herself as the missionary fruit and the daughter of the Churches of the West. She still needs to be able to rely on the theological, liturgical, spiritual and in particular the monastic experience, and also on the financial support of the Churches of the ancient Christianity of the West. For her part the Church that is in Africa can humbly offer the West the marvels that God has worked in her through the Holy Spirit, and the tribulations that Jesus continues to endure in the sufferings and material needs of his faithful there.

What are the needs of the Church in Africa?

They are many: disease, wars, hunger, the critical lack of educational and healthcare structures. And then there are the toxic temptations of Western-born ideologies – communism, gender ideology... Africa has become the dumping ground of contraceptive products, of weapons of mass destruction. And she is also the scene of the organised theft of primary mineral recources: it is to this end that they organize and plan the wars and foster disorder on the African continent. So it is that they exploit her natural resources in the absence of any rules or laws. The world economic powers must stop pillaging the poor. They take advantage of their poverty and lack of education, and their own technology and financial wealth, in order to foment wars and loot the natural riches of the weaker nations without financial resources.

Does Islam represent a threat to the survival of the Catholic Church in Africa?

For many centuries sub-Saharan Islam has coexisted peacably and harmoniously with Christianity. On the other hand the Islam that takes the form of a political organization, intent on imposing itself on the whole world, is indeed a threat, and not just to Africa. In fact it is above all a threat to the societies of the European continent which too often no longer have a true identity or a religion. Those who deny the values of their own tradition, culture and religion are condemned to disappear, for they have lost all their motivation, all their energy and even all the will to fight to defend their own identity.

In what way can ACN, as a pontifical foundation, still better help the Church in Africa?

Today all the charitable organizations, even the Catholic ones, are focused unilaterally and exclusively on addressing situations of material poverty, but “man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”, as Jesus tells us (cf. Mt 4:4). I therefore encourage ACN to give aid for the formation of priests, seminarians, male and female religious, for catechists, for the construction of churches and seminaries and for spiritual retreats for bishops and priests. I humbly beg all the friends and benefactors of ACN to continue generously supporting the great missionary work of ACN throughout the world and particularly in Africa. For it is true that those bishops and priests who do not take the time – at least for a few days – to place themselves in the presence of God in solitude, silence and prayer, risk dying on the spiritual level, or at the very least, drying out spiritually within. For they will no longer be capable of providing solid spiritual nourishment to the faithful entrusted to them if they themselves do not draw strength from the Lord in a regular and constant manner.

Should we also speak of the political problems?

The Church is gravely mistaken as to the nature of the real crisis if she thinks that her essential mission is to offer solutions to all the political problems relating to justice, peace, poverty, the reception of migrants, etc. while neglecting evangelisation. Certainly, like Christ, the Church cannot disassociate herself from the human problems. Besides, she has always helped here through her schools, her universities, her training centres, her hospitals and dispensaries... Nonetheless, I would like to cite to you the words of an Italian who has converted to Islam (and there are over a hundred thousand like him in Italy). His name is Yahya Pallavicini, and today he is an imam, the President of  CO.RE.IS  (the Islamic Religious Community) and a professor at the Catholic University of Milan:  “If the Church, with the obsession she has today with the values of justice, social rights and the struggle against poverty, ends up as a result by forgetting her contemplative soul, she will fail in her mission and she will be abandoned by a great many of her faithful, owing to the fact that they will no longer recognize in her what constitutes her specific mission.”

School children in Wau, South Sudan; Cardinal Sarah; ACN photos

This year, Christians in Aleppo will great Easter with joy

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 10:23

"The resurrection of Christ gives us hope, strength and the victory of life, which is why we always say, 'If God is for us, then who can be against us?'"

By Eva-Maria Kolmann

IN RECENT years, Easter has been a sad occasion for Aleppo’s Christians; Good Friday was ever-present, and the light of the resurrection seemed far away. Only last year, Sister Annie Demerjian, told international Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), that “our children get coffins for Easter.” This year, she is able to sound a note of joy.

She told ACN: “Thankfully, we feel a lot safer. The bombing has ended. On this Easter feast I am so happy, just like all the other Christians who will be celebrating it in peace after so many years of war. Now we feel a lot safer as we go to church and come back from church. We thank God that the situation has improved. I wish that all the people who fled could return to their restored houses by Easter next year. I hope that peace and love will gain the upper hand in our country so that we can all be united once more.”

This is what two lay people in Aleppo had to say:

Lina Nalanand: “What we have been through is difficult and painful, but of course we cannot compare it with the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Christ gives us hope, strength and the victory of life, which is why we always say, ‘If God is for us, then who can be against us?’”

Rana Idelbi, an elderly woman: “This is an incredible feeling for me. I know that I am getting old, but I am just as excited as the children on the feast days. It is true that we are tired and afraid and there have been many martyrs; we have cried and many of our brothers and relatives have left because of the war. But even under these circumstances, I knew that the Lord is always with us and my faith has grown. I pray with more humility than before and I know that the Lord is with me and with all of us.”

There are an estimated 40,000 Christians among the remaining inhabitants of Aleppo and surrounding areas. These are the ones who were not able to flee the city, either because they are too poor or because the relatives to whom they could have gone had already left the country.

For months, Aleppo was surrounded on all sides by the Syrian army, which, supported by the Russian air force, was fighting against the rebels for control of eastern Aleppo. Media reported on the bombardment of eastern Aleppo, but there was scant coverage of rebel attacks on western Aleppo. These were carried out with sophisticated weapons, reported Sister Demerjian, and caused many civilian casualties and widespread fear and terror.

The Christians in Aleppo still feel very isolated and the security situation remains tenuous, but the people are committed to stay because of their faith. Destitute, with scant supplies of food and basic commodities, shortages in medicine, electricity and water, they turn to their Churches for help—these are now working together well in distributing emergency aid.

ACN is cooperating closely with the local Churches and is supporting several projects in Aleppo. Since 2011, the organization has granted some $20M in emergency and pastoral aid to support Christians in Syria.

Children's art in Homs, Syria; ACN photo

The North American College Runs for Erbil, Iraq

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 09:43

Seminarians studying at the North American College in Rome are planning to run across the Italian peninsula to benefit the suffering members of the Church in the Middle East - specifically displaced families in Erbil, Iraq.

Please show your support for these dedicated seminarians as they raise funds for our brothers and sisters in need. 

Click here to read more and to make a donation.  May God bless you.


Violence convulses DRC, targets the Church

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 13:32

"The Catholic Church in this country never let itself be co-opted by any political group. Now attempts are being made to embroil the Church in the conflict."

By Maria Lozano

NEW YORK—The rector of a seminary in the Democratic Republic of Congo refused a militia’s request for space on its grounds. In the wake of authorities’ crackdown on the militia, its members attacked and gravely damaged the seminary.

It was one of several incidents in recent months that saw the Catholic Church in DRC become the target of violence by groups with a range of motivations. Some of them are political, as the Church acted as mediator in forging an accord between the country’s president and the opposition—a role the Church has since given up.

Father Richard Kitengie Muembo, rector of Christ the King Theological Seminary in Malole in DRC, which was partially set on fire and destroyed on Feb. 18, 2017, described a chaotic scene, as the 77 seminarians had to be evacuated on the eve of the attack. In the end, UN troops had to come to their rescue.

The militia is loyal to the late tribal leader Jean-Pierre Kamwina Nsapu Pandi, who had contested the legitimacy of the central government, calling for a rebellion and attacking the local police—whom he accused of abuse of power—as well as rival communities. Kamwina Nsapu was killed by security forces last summer. However, his forces have kept up armed resistance, which to-date has led to the death of at least 400 civilians and an untold number of security forces.

On March 31, the rebel forces attacked the city Luebo, setting fire to the Catholic schools office of the local diocese, destroying a novitiate of women religious, and desecrating the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Father Kitengie Muembo told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that “the Catholic Church is highly respected in this country because it has never let itself be co-opted by any political group. Now attempts are being made to embroil the Church in the conflict.”

The Church insists it is not taking sides, also accusing the government for authorizing overly harsh measures on the part of security forces and not tackling grave unemployment, both factors in the ongoing unrest in DRC. Young people are targets for recruitment by various militia. The crisis in Kasai caused by Kamwina-Nsapu militia in the southern part of the country is one of five armed conflicts in DRC.

Father Richard Kitengie Muembo is hopeful his seminary will eventually be repaired and reopened, pending a measure of peace returning to the region. He said: “The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is in the same situation as all of the Congolese people. Parts of the population are hiding in the jungle. Schools have been closed, hunger reigns … We dream of an end to this pointless war. Looters from all over the world come here to exploit the country.”

The priest also charged that “anyone who uses modern technology nowadays is in some way using the blood of the Congolese people,” the priest pointed out. In this, he is making reference to coltan, a black ore made of columbite and tantalite which is used in the production of batteries for mobile phones and other digital devices. Coltan is considered to be one of the so-called “blood ores,” as its extraction involves human-rights violations and is helps finance armed groups.

In 2016, ACN spent more than $3.5M to fund projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the support of 41 seminaries, which benefited a total of 1,229 seminarians.

A room in the Malole seminary after the attack; ACN photo

Christ's bounty in Damascus

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:54

Defiant of powerlessness, these men and women religious put up a wall of lamentation with their love, ensuring a charitable presence among people who have lost everything.

Christ’s bounty in Damascus

By Archbishop Samir Nassar

BEHIND the scenes, quietly and discreetly, 82 women religious belonging to various congregations are serving the Church in Damascus. They are the great force, which, drawing strength from the breath of the Holy Spirit, gives life to charisms of the Gospel in a country torn apart by war. They do so without getting tired or being afraid.

Witness
Some of them are living in small communities, housed in the large schools they used to run but which were nationalized in 1968; others live in small hospitality centers or in modest apartments among the people, living a life of poverty, prayer and praise.

Listening to the most vulnerable
These consecrated religious are always at the ready to welcome and listen to the most vulnerable of the city’s residents. They provide for the most urgent needs, especially during these years of war and isolation. They store up, in their hearts, all the suffering and need of this vulnerable population, forgotten in their misery and insecurity. Defiant of powerlessness, these men and women religious put up a wall of lamentation with their love, ensuring a charitable presence among people who have lost everything.

Faces of compassion
The engagement of our beloved sisters who serve families is made manifest by their presence at child-care centers, in schools, dispensaries, eating places, as well as catechetical and formation centers. Let us salute their heroic mission as they take care of the needs of the sick, the wounded and the aged, all of them burdened by war. Theirs is a pastoral vanguard.

The promise of a future

This ‘experimental’ mission of our dear sisters remains focused on the schools, the formation of children and young people. This educational service transmits values of peace, tolerance and dialogue, all geared toward a destroyed homeland and the renewal of the Church. Let’s salute all the types of psychological support for the victims of war, especially the children, the young people, their lives wounded by violence, delinquency and exclusion.

Gratitude
This beautiful witness of light, hidden and barely known, doesn’t it deserve some gratitude and recognition? Dearly beloved consecrated women in Damascus, the Resurrected Christ will thank you and bless you!

Easter 2017

Archbishop Nassar is the Maronite ordinary of Damascus.

Syrian children; ACN photo

Pray for Egypt's Christians!

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 10:30

"Prayer is the most important thing we can ask for at this time."

By Eva-Maria Kolmann 

NEW YORK—In the wake of twin terror attacks on two churches in Egypt that killed 44 people, Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut called on Christians around the world to pray for the victims.

On Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, two suicide attacks unleashed carnage in two Coptic Orthodox churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria. The strikes also wounded at least 120 worshippers. "Prayer is the most important thing we can ask for at this time,” the bishop told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The prelate said he was not entirely surprised at the new attacks, referring to bombing of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Cairo last December, which killed almost 30 people. "Our sense of security was not very strong,” Bishop Kyrillos said.

The bishop emphasized that both the government and the country’s Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic Churches will ramp up their collaboration to ensure the security of Christian places of worship. The bishop said: "I was visited by a security official who asked me what we need now. He made the suggestion that we could train young people and adults, and that all resources could be pooled in order to increase security. Here in Assiut there are 550 Christian churches. Thank God, nothing has happened here so far, but we are too little prepared for such events.”

Asked about the danger of an exodus of Christians from Egypt—as has been happening in Iraq and Syria--like Bishop Kyrillos expressed the conviction that these attacks would not create any large-scale exodus of Christians from Egypt. "In Egypt the people feel a close bond with their country and all of them see themselves as Egyptians – whether they are Christians or Muslims. There is a stronger sense of solidarity among the population here than elsewhere,” he said. However, the bishop suggested, the intention of the terrorists is to destroy this solidarity.

The bishop said that the visit of Pope Francis to Egypt, scheduled for April 28-29, 2017, is "more important now than ever.” He is convinced that the trip will not be called off, since, he said, the Pope has already “shown the courage, precisely in such situations, to come and strengthen the people.” Bishop Kyrillos expressed confidence that the Pope will send out a clear message of peace when he visits the country.

Candles in a Coptic Orthodox Church; ACN photo

 

 

 

 

In Niger, witnessing Christ's love to Muslims

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 11:04

In some of the villages of Niger, people even thought I must have been white at birth, because I was Catholic!

Mother Marie-Catherine Kingbo is Superior General of the Fraternity of the Servants of Christ in Niger. She spoke late last month at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, during the “Night of the Witnesses,” an annual initiative of the French office of Aid to the Church in Need, the international Catholic charity.

By Mother Marie-Catherine Kingo

It is early January 2015. Everywhere the media are full of the Mohammed cartoons [that triggered the terrorist attack on] the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, and tension is mounting in Niger. On Jan. 16 and 17, incensed Muslim demonstrators start to attack churches and schools, convents and religious houses, as well as individual Christians.

The most seriously affected regions were those of Zinder and Niamey. And the fires are also burning in Maradi and in other regions. We, the Catholic religious sisters who have been established here in Niger since 2006, prepared ourselves for the worst.  

In some countries of Africa, people associate Christianity with the West. In some of the villages of Niger, people even thought I must have been white at birth, because I was Catholic! As you can see, what you do in the West has an impact on us Christians here—and all the more so since the population of Niger is 98 percent Muslim!

During this time of suffering and uncertainty my daily prayer is inspired by these words of the Prophet Micah: “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.” Yes, these people who have benefited from so much care, education and love from the Catholic Church in Niger—who have come knocking on our doors, day and night, asking for food and help in their poverty—these are the same people who have now turned against us, throwing stones at us, burning our churches and trying to prevent us from wearing a cross.

Had it not been for the intervention of the police during that month of January 2015, we would not have been spared. In the community of which I am the Superior General we were a group of 20 or so sisters and novices. Some were afraid. So I put this question to them: Do you want to leave or remain here? Not one of them left, despite their fear and insecurity. We remained barricaded inside the convent, unable to attend Mass, for three weeks. We adored [the Blessed Sacrament] and prayed as usual. I trusted in God, and in the people whom we are helping.

It has been 11 years since I came from Senegal to help the people of Niger, as God asked of me. One day in 2005, as I was following a course in Islam, I understood how the Muslims see Christ. Not as the Son of God, who died on the cross and was raised, but as a simple prophet. I was astonished, because they did not know this God of love and goodness.

It was if I was being challenged by Christ in these words: “Now that you know this, make my true face known in a Muslim environment.” That was how the Lord asked me to be his witness. The place of this mission came to me clearly in the course of my prayer: “Set out for Niger.”

In 2006, I left Senegal to begin my new mission, accompanied by a young Senegalese postulant, and we founded the first indigenous religious congregation there, the “Fraternité des Servantes du Christ (Fraternity of the Servants of Christ),” with the approval of the diocesan bishop.

The objective was to show forth the tender face of the Lord—not to compel Muslims to become Christians. We began by going through the villages, talking to the local people in order to get to know them better. We soon became aware of the precarious existence of a large proportion of the people, especially the women and the children. Something had to be done to remedy the situation.

For example, we met Absou, age 27, a mother of six children, a blind husband and no work. We invited her to come to our nutrition and healthcare center for children and expectant mothers. We also discovered that young girls are sometimes given in marriage as young as 11 or 12, and that some of them die in giving birth to their first child.

We decided to organize educational sessions for the mothers and young women, for the village chiefs, the young boys and the imams. We also wanted to get them to think about the radicalization of some of the young people, the preaching of some of the imams who incite people to violence, and the consequences of the actions perpetrated by terrorists around the world.

In 2007, our first session for the imams and village chiefs was attended by 24 participants. It was incredible; we had never imagined that the people would respond to the appeal of a woman, a religious and a stranger! The most remarkable thing happened when I asked the question, “Are you not bothered by a religious, a foreigner and a Catholic challenging your way of thinking?”

One person gave me this surprising and encouraging reply: “What unites us is neither religion, nor ethnicity, but love.” So without knowing it, this man was already talking about God. Currently we have more than a 100 imams and village chiefs attending these educational sessions every year.



Today, indeed, the local mentality has changed very much for the better. One Nigerian woman, a former Muslim, has joined our community and wants to become a nun! At age 15 she felt the desire to turn to Christ, to convert and to enter into the consecrated life. She was at first rejected by her family, who no longer wanted to have any contact with her—but her relatives came round in the end and accepted her again.

There is even a Muslim dignitary in our district who has entrusted his seven-year-old daughter to us; this father wants his daughter to become a boarder and a Catholic. Her faith has begun to awaken in her, and she is currently attending our pre-school

But in many hearts there is still some way to go. Last December, a group of young men violently harangued one of our workers, just because he was working for us, the sisters. More than once we have been subjected to stones thrown on our roof during evening prayers.

One Christmas Day, outside the doors of our convent, some children came to shout insults at us. To protect us from such aggression, since October 2014, we have had two policeman posted 24 hours a day at the entrance to our convent, ever since the fall of 2014.

We, the sisters of the Fraternité des Servantes du Christ, who all come from different backgrounds—from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and from Chad—have left everything in order to reveal the true face of the Lord, who is only LOVE. We draw our strength from these words of Christ: “I am with you all days, even until the end of the world.”

Mother Kingbo; IDPs in Diocese of Maradi; ACN photos

Witness to the persecution of Christians in North Korea

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:40

Among these "political prisoners" those who suffer the worst treatment are the Christians, since they are regarded as spies, as "anti-revolutionaries of the first class."

Father Philippe Blot, who belongs to the congregation of Paris priests committed to serve in foreign missions, has visited North Korea on several occasions, taking considerable risks. He spoke late last month at Notre Dame Cathedral, during the “Night of the Witnesses,” an annual initiative of the French office of Aid to the Church in Need.

By Father Philippe Blot

Recently, I was able to travel to North Korea and, despite the constant surveillance by the police, I was able to verify the truth of various reports and hear numerous witness stories from North Korean refugees.

First of all in the hospitals: the situation is critical—no antibiotics, no dressings, not even any soap. To give you just one example, instead of bottles of serum for the transfusions, they use beer bottles filled with boiled sugar water!

I was able to visit some schools. They illustrate the chronic malnutrition of the entire population—with the exception of the apparatchiks of the regime of course! One needs to know that a North Korean child, aged seven, measures on average 8 inches less and weighs 22 pounds less than a child in South Korea. Refugees [whom I have met in South Korea] were unanimous in telling me that in North Korea, “you have to bribe some member of the party or of the army in order to obtain basic necessities.” Hence corruption is the order of the day.

I was surprised not to see any handicapped people. The truth is that the North Korean regime, racist and eugenicist, is obsessed with the notion of racial purity in which those designated “abnormal” have no part. Consequently they are expelled from the major cities.

North Korea is a country so closed that no one can enter or move around without a visa—including God,” as the refugees add with a touch of black humor. The two principal pillars of the repression are, on the one hand, total control over all the movements of the population, and on the other, enforcing complete ignorance about the outside world. North Korean refugees who have succeeded in escaping discover to their astonishment a reality that is totally different from what they have been told ever since birth.

They describe all the unbridled Marxist propaganda inflicted on the people in order to turn them into zombies, submissive to the Communist Party. The dictator is presented as a veritable “god,” an idea unfailingly promoted in every speech, in all the teaching, all the information. The Kim dynasty is the object of a frenetic propaganda effort, with its 30,000 giant statues and portraits in every town and village and it slogans inscribed on vast billboards on every street and road.

North Koreans are taught to spy on their neighbors and colleagues and denounce one another for any failing in their duty towards the “Great Leader.” After the arrest of the transgressor, the whole neighborhood and the family are rounded up in order to criticize the transgressions of the supposed delinquent. Then he is either deported, or everybody witnesses his execution.

Many thousands of Christians are languishing in these deportation camps. Eyewitness reports and the observations of Western satellites allow for an estimate the number of persons detained in these veritable concentration camps—anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals. The brutality of the camp guards is the daily bread of these prisoners, who work 16 hours a day, suffer atrocious torture, to say nothing of the public executions of those deemed to have been recalcitrant.

Among these “political prisoners” those who suffer the worst treatment are the Christians, since they are regarded as spies, as “anti-revolutionaries of the first class.” According to the regime there are around 13,000 of them, but according to humanitarian organizations there are 20,000 to 40,000. They are singled out for the cruelest treatments of all—they are crucified, hanged from bridges or trees, drowned, or burnt alive. Some forms of torture are too horrible for words

The rulers of North Korea have banished all forms of religion, particularly Christianity and Buddhism—because, according to Marxism, religion is the “opium of the people.” North Koreans do not know what a Bible is, nor consequently who God is. A few years ago, with great fanfare of propaganda, the government opened a Catholic church, a Protestant temple, and an Orthodox church in the capital—but of course they are nothing but mere showpieces!

Yet despite all this, there is an underground Church in North Korea, which is subject to continued persecution. North Korean refugees confirm that they have seen neighbors arrested for praying, at home or in a secret place. Some information does manage to filter through; for example, two years ago, a pregnant woman aged 33 was arrested in possession of 20 Bibles. She was beaten severely, then hung by her feet in public. In May 2010, some 20 Christians were arrested; they were part of a clandestine Church. Three of them were immediately put to death and the rest were deported.

It is thought that since 1995 at least 5,000 Christians have been executed, solely because they were praying secretly or distributing Bibles. Many North Koreans have become Christians thanks to the presence of foreign missionaries on the border. It is also known that some American and Canadian pastors of Korean origin are currently imprisoned in the political prisoners’ camps for having helped the refugees.

Refugees, when caught, risk being forcibly repatriated—which means prison, torture, the camps and death. If they are not repatriated, they risk falling into the hands of criminal organizations which traffic in human organs. Women and young girls risk being kidnapped by gangs and sold to peasants or, still worse, to brothel owners. A young Korean girl can be sold for $800-$1200.

And so, as a missionary and as a Catholic priest, I am speaking here on behalf of all those Koreans who for more than 60 years have been living the longest Way of the Cross in human history. I speak on behalf of those who have had an eye torn out, or another organ—without anesthetics—so that they can be transplanted into rich Chinese, Japanese or others! I am speaking on behalf of all those North Koreans who are victims of the slave traders!

In conclusion, calculating things on a strictly geopolitical basis—considering the relative inaction of China and the Western powers—the 21 million North Koreans risk having to wait a long time before seeing any radical improvement in their lot. Barring an intervention of God, that is—something we pray for ardently every day for this crucified people.

Momument honoring founding of country's communist party (top); party propaganda billboard; ACN photos

Cardinal lived life under the sign of the cross

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 08:19

"Is there disgrace greater than death on the cross? And yet that is what leads us to life. "

By Eva-Maria Kolmann

JUST a few hours before his death March 18, 2017, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk—Archbishop-emeritus of Prague, whispered, “Most beautiful King!” When he was asked what he meant, he answered: “Jesus on the Cross.” Those would be his last words.

The crucified Jesus was his “symbol,” said Bishop Frantisek Radkovký, the bishop-emeritus of Plzen, in his homily for the March 25, 2017 requiem Mass for Cardinal Vlk.

The abandonment of Jesus on the Cross had been his “true education,” while attending the seminary that had been under surveillance by state security services, Bishop Radkovký continued, citing the cardinal’s own words.

The celebrant read testimony from the cardinal describing the Church’s persecution under the country’s former communist regime: “I understood that in this so difficult period for the Church, our only avenue of escape was the Way of the Cross. Is there disgrace greater than death on the cross? And yet that is what leads us to life. Should a person not always place himself into the hands of God?”

Because Cardinal Vlk refused to join the communist youth organization, he had to wait several years to even receive permission to attend a university. He waited a total of 17 years, after completing secondary school, to be ordained to the priesthood. Then, after working for a spell as priest-secretary for his bishop, he was not allowed to work as a priest—for 11 years.

During this time, he had to earn his living as a window cleaner and archivist, carrying out his priestly duties only in secret. It was a time of trial, yet he wrote: “I discovered that this cross did more for my salvation and that of others, than had I continued to work as a secretary for the bishop for several more years. (…) The time I spent as a window cleaner was the most blessed time of my life. I understood that I was living my priesthood to the fullest.” To find and accept the reflection of the crucified Christ in any situation, no matter how difficult, was the most profound secret of his life.

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). As an adolescent, Miroslav Vlk had heard these words during Mass at a southern Bohemian pilgrimage site after—they confirmed his call to the priesthood. Indeed, humbling himself while he trusted in God was exactly what he spent his entire life doing. When he was elevated to cardinal in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, he was shaken to hear those same words again in a reading during the consistory. They told the story of his life.

At his funeral, hundreds of bishops and priests from all over the world and thousands of people from Prague and all over the Czech Republic came to pay their respects. The cardinal was buried in the most important church in the Czech Republic, St. Vitus Cathedral, where the monarchs of Bohemia had been coronated and buried. However, his king was Jesus Christ, the Crucified. After his coffin had been lowered into the stone floor, voices rang out in song across the overflowing church, Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat (Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands).

Whispering his final words, it was this King that he had in mind, the King who had allowed him to share in His suffering and abandonment throughout his life—the King who now exalted him.

Cardinal Vlk's coffin is lowered into a tomb in St. Vitus Cathedral; ACN photo

On the Nineveh Plain, Churches unite to rebuild Christian homes

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 11:09

"We have done it to ensure that the Christians can remain in Iraq. We are working for God."

By Daniele Piccini

NEW YORK—In an unprecedented act of ecumenical collaboration, three Iraqi Churches have joined forces to execute a plan to rebuild Christian homes on the Nineveh Plain.

Under the auspices of international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on March 27, 2017, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church, at a ceremony in Erbil, Kurdistan, formally established the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC). The Committee is tasked with planning and supervising the rebuilding and repair of the homes of their respective faithful, which were damaged and destroyed during the occupation of the Nineveh Plain by ISIS.

The Committee is comprised of two members from each of the three Churches, as well as three outside experts. ACN will pursue advocacy and fundraising in support of the Committee’s formidable task: more than 12,000 homes need to be rebuilt, at a likely cost of more than $200M. Funds will be allotted according to the number of homes belonging to faithful of each of the three Churches.

Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Timothaeus Mosa Alshaman of Antioch and prior of the Monastery of Saint Matthew, declared: “Today, we are truly a united Church—Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic—united in the work of rebuilding these houses on the Nineveh Plain; and in restoring hope to the hearts of the inhabitants of these villages, inviting those who have left them to return.”

Father Andrzej Halemba, head of ACN’s Middle East desk, stressed that the establishment of the Committee is not first and foremost about finding funding. “We have not done it for money,” he said, adding: “We have done it to ensure that the Christians can remain in Iraq. We are working for God.”

Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul declared: “I would like to invite the Christians of the Nineveh Plain to return to their homes and resume living in their villages, in order to bear witness to Christianity. Today we join together to demonstrate that we are united in our wish to accelerate this operation as rapidly as possible, and that it must start as soon as possible.”

Saying that the courage of the three Christian Churches to work together is an echo of the courage of those Christians who have decided to stay on in Iraq, Chaldean Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi of Alqosh proclaimed: “This is a brave step forward, which gives us great joy and encourages the Christians to remain in their villages and their own country.”

Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan called on Catholics and all Christians around the world: “We are the roots of Christianity. We must remain in our country. We must remain as witnesses to Jesus Christ in this country, in Iraq and especially on the Nineveh Plain. This task of rebuilding all the houses in those villages—where ISIS has destroyed everything—is truly an enormous challenge. Thank you in advance to all those who will help us.”

With Father Halemba looking on, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Mor Timotheos Mousa Al-Shamani of Bartellah signs the ecumenical agreement establishing the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee; ACN photo

 

 

A Vehicle for a Remote Parish in the Mountains of Malawi

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 10:46

Success Story

Thanks to your generosity, Father Fredrick Chinkhoma can reach his people again. ACN was able to provide the $21,500 needed to purchase a new car. Now Father Chinkhoma can more fully serve his large, mountainous parish in Malawi.

His Parish of Saint Paul is one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Blantyre and lies in a mountainous area, close to the frontier between Malawi and Mozambique. It includes more than 32 outstations and 190 smaller communities. Most of the villages in the hills here are remote and difficult of access, and in the rainy season the dry and dusty tracks turn into slippery rivers of mud.

Father Chinkhoma has made it his goal to visit every village at least once a month. But a short while ago his 25-year-old car finally and irrevocably gave up the ghost. Undeterred, he continued to try and visit the mountain villages using a moped. Then he had an accident; he broke his hand and the doctor forbade him from riding the moped any longer. This left him desperately needing a safe and reliable vehicle, robust enough to cope with the challenging conditions, in order to be able to continue to provide his priestly ministry.

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, he is now able to make use of this vehicle. The Catholic faithful in his parish are also delighted, since he can now visit them more frequently than before. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped!

 

Code: 135-01-29

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Poor Clare Sisters in Bosnia and Herzegovina Thank You for Your Support

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 10:43

Success Story

“Your help means a great deal to us. Many thanks for all the good you have done for us all. We would like to repay you by praying that our beloved Lord may always help and bless you!” This is what the Poor Clare Sisters of the Convent of Saint Clare in Brestovsko wrote to thank our generous benefactors for having supported them once again last year. 

Their convent was established in 1989, in what was then still Yugoslavia. At the time, four religious were sent from Split, in what is now Croatia, to establish a new convent in the territory that is today Bosnia and Herzegovina. The community has since grown to 8 Sisters, who live a life of poverty and seclusion and unceasing prayer in the convent enclosure.

The Sisters support themselves in part by baking hosts. It was a particular joy and privilege for them to be able to provide the hosts that were used for the Holy Mass that was celebrated by Pope Francis in June 2015 in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Moreover, on this special occasion the Sisters were allowed, exceptionally, to leave their convent enclosure and travel to Sarajevo to participate in the Holy Mass with the Pope.

The baking of hosts alone is not sufficient to assure the support of the Sisters, despite their very modest way of life. That is why, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we sent them $2,500 last year to help them make ends meet.

Our heartfelt thanks to you all!

 

Code: 444-06-39

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Help for the Formation of 49 Young Basilan Brothers in Ukraine

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 10:34

At present there are 49 young men still undergoing their formation. This is a blessing and a joy, but at the same time a huge challenge for the superiors of the order, who are faced with having to provide for their training and upkeep. Can you help today?

When Pope Saint John Paul II travelled to Ukraine in the year 2001, he beatified 25 martyrs of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church who had given their lives under communism for their faith in Jesus Christ and their fidelity to the Church. Among the new blessed were a number of members of the Greek Catholic Order of Saint Basil who had died in the Soviet prisons and concentration camps, including one bishop of their order.

In the homily he gave at the time, Pope John Paul II remarked, “In a particular manner I would like to hold up to you the resplendent witness of these heroic martyrs of the Gospel. Remain faithful to Christ – just as they did – even unto death! If God is now blessing your country with abundant vocations, if the seminaries are now full – and this is a source of hope for your Church – then this is undoubtedly a fruit of their sacrifice.”

The Basilan Order in Ukraine has grown remarkably. At the time of the political upheavals in Eastern Europe, all that was left of the order was a single monastery, situated in Warsaw, Poland. During the Soviet era, when the Ukrainian Church could only live its faith underground, so the Brothers of the order were sent secretly to train for the priesthood in Poland. Today, in Ukraine itself, there are no fewer than 29 houses and 340 religious.

The order continues to be blessed with abundant vocations. At present there are 49 young men still undergoing their formation. This is a blessing and a joy, but at the same time a huge challenge for the superiors of the order, who are faced with having to provide for the training and upkeep of these young men against a background of soaring prices in Ukraine.

We have helped them for many years and intend to do so again this year; this time we have promised a contribution of $31,100.

Will you give to help fund the formation of these 49 young Basilan Brothers in Ukraine?


Code: 438-04-79

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Support for the Life and Ministry of Religious Sisters and Deacons in Venezuela

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 10:21

The Sisters and the deacons themselves, too, have to struggle for their daily bread, for vital medical care and for the essential tools they urgently need for themselves and for others. We are proposing to help them with a contribution of $11,600. Will you help with your support?

Venezuela is currently in a state of profound economic and political crisis. Galloping inflation has turned many everyday commodities into unaffordable luxuries. The water supply is inadequate in many areas, while the medical care system has virtually collapsed. Insecurity and violence are everywhere and the murder rate is rising.

In the Diocese of La Guaira in the north of the country, there are 14 religious Sisters from various different congregations who are helping to care for the needy population, along with two permanent deacons and two deacons training for ordination to the priesthood. Family breakdown is increasingly widespread, with many children left to their own devices and old people with no one to care for them. The crisis is driving more and more people into a state of apathy and despair. Disillusioned and embittered, they no longer have the strength to hope or to care lovingly for one another. The result, once again, is an increase in violence, drug addiction and crime.

There is plenty of work for the Sisters and the deacons to do. They care for the elderly and for orphans, run a midday meal service for children who have no one to care for them at home, run a charity clothing store for the poor and care for the sick. Most important is their pastoral work, since through it they are bringing light and hope to the hearts of the people.

They are proclaiming the Good News to the children and young people in the catechism classes, taking Holy Communion to the sick, leading Bible study groups, running day retreats and going out visiting the remotest villages. They are also training lay catechists who can prepare people in the parishes for the sacraments and explain the Word of God to them. All of this work represents a vital contribution to helping the people escape from the vicious spiral of despair and hopelessness.

Needless to say, the Sisters and the deacons themselves are profoundly affected by the economic crisis. They, too, have to struggle for their daily bread, for vital medical care and for the essential tools they urgently need for themselves and for others.

We are proposing to help them with a contribution of $11,600. Will you give to support the life and ministry of these religious Sisters and deacons as they attempt to help struggling Venezuela?

We are sure they will gratefully remember you in their prayers.

 

Code: 239-03-39

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

10,000 Child's Bibles for Indigenous Faithful in Brazil

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 10:09

10,000 copies are to be printed in the Macuxi language so that children, young people and even adults, who otherwise have no Bibles, can read the colorfully illustrated Bible stories in their own language and allow the Gospel message to penetrate and form their hearts.

The indigenous Macuxi people today number only some 15,000, and roughly two thirds currently live in the Amazon area of northern Brazil, close to the frontier with Venezuela and Guyana. The remaining third live in Guyana itself. The Macuxi came into contact with the European colonial powers for the first time in the 18th-century. Over time, they were enslaved by landowners and forced to work in the rice fields and in the mines. In return, they were introduced to cheap alcohol, leaving many of them addicted and causing great harm to their traditional village and family life.

The Catholic Church has been present in this region since the beginning of the 20th century. The missionaries have stood by the Macuxi and helped them to escape their difficult plight. By inculcating the Gospel values they have helped the people to say no to alcohol, to refrain from violence in the event of conflicts and to extricate themselves from their slavery to the big landowners. Many landowners have been less pleased by this and as a result there has been some violence, even to the extent of some mission stations being burned down in recent years.

Thankfully, some of their traditional lands have once again been restored to the ownership of the Macuxi people. But now they face new challenges, with the spread of fundamentalist sects and attempts to induce the people into consuming alcohol once again. The Church and the tribal elders are concerned above all for the children and young people.

In order to help root the Gospel values early, deep in the hearts of the children, ACN is helping to fund the translation of its Child’s Bible, God Speaks to His Children, into the Macuxi language. For almost 40 years, this little book of Bible stories with the bright red cover has been a worldwide hit, and has already been translated into over 170 languages, in a total printing of over 50 million copies.

Now 10,000 copies are to be printed in the Macuxi language so that the children, young people and even the adults, who otherwise have no Bibles, can read the colorfully illustrated Bible stories in their own language and so allow the Gospel message to penetrate and form their hearts.

We have pledged to give $10,100 for this project. Will you give for the printing of these 10,000 Child’s Bibles for indigenous faithful in Brazil?

Code: 212-00-89

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Six Motorcycles so that Priests can Reach Scattered Catholic Faithful in Bangladesh

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 09:54

Will you give so that Bishop Kuni can buy motorcycles for his priests to help them better reach the faithful?

Catholics make up only a tiny minority in Bangladesh, where currently almost 90% of its over 144 million strong population are Muslims. The Catholic Church is relatively young in this particular country of Southeast Asia, which was formerly known as East Pakistan back in 1947 when it gained independence from Britain and split away from India.

Some 77,000 of the country‘s approximately 200,000 Catholics live in the Diocese of Mymensingh today. The presence of the Catholic Church here dates back 100 years, but this particular diocese was only founded in 1987 and is still building up its structures. One particularly difficult problem is the shortage of priests: the diocese has only 22 priests – and its 15 parishes cover a vast area.

Bangladesh is among the poorest countries in the world today, and for the Church here it is almost impossible to fulfill her pastoral mission without outside help. As a result, Bishop Paul Ponen Kuni has turned to ACN to help provide motorcycles for four of his newly ordained priests, who are already working in parishes of up to 13,000 Catholic faithful. He has also asked the same thing for two other priests who are teaching in the diocesan seminary.

He writes, “I humbly ask your help for six motorcycles for our priests, who are maintaining the vitality of the Church and carrying out the work of the diocese for the greater glory of God.”

We are planning to give him $10,600 and are looking to you, our faithful benefactors, for your help, also.

Will you give so that Bishop Kuni can buy motorcycles for his priests to help them better reach the faithful in Bangladesh?

Code: 342-08-29

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Help for the Formation of 22 Novices and Seminarians in India

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 09:38

The congregation's Province of Saint Peter was established two years ago. It is very poor and still dependent on outside support. At present, it has 22 young novices preparing for ordination. Are you able to support the future of the Church with their formation?

“We are immensely grateful to your organization, since we have no one else to turn to for help.” These were the words of Father Prabhakar Vangala, a provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Faith (Missionari della Fede), thanking ACN and its benefactors for their support over the years to help his congregation grow and flourish as it seeks to serve God and neighbor.

The Congregation is still very young. It was established in 1982 in Italy and has been present in India since 1989, where it is known as the Missionaries of Faith. It began in India with four priests; today, it already has two provinces, numerous ordained priests and a high number of new vocations. In fact, the number of Indian priests has grown so rapidly that many of them are now being sent into other parts of the world where there is a shortage of vocations.

The congregation’s Province of Saint Peter was established two years ago. It is very poor and still dependent on outside support. At present, it has 22 young novices preparing for ordination. Some of them have come from the state of Orissa, where at Christmas 2007 and again in August 2008 fanatical Hindus launched murderous attacks against Christians. Over a hundred people were killed and close to 50,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes, while numerous churches, Church properties and private homes were destroyed.

The families of these young men are for the most part extremely poor. Many of the novices are from remote villages and many of them are orphans. As a result, Father Vangala has once again asked us for support for their formation, since the province has to supply everything they need during this time – from food and lodging, to medical care, to clothing, teaching and educational materials.

Thanking ACN for the past support it has provided, Father Vangala said: “Without your generous and selfless help, we could not have done the wonderful work we have managed to do in our seminary. We were even able to provide our students with three meals a day.”

We do not wish to disappoint him, and so we are once again planning to help with $5,800 for this year.

Will you join in giving to support Father Vangala and his future Missionaries of Faith in India?


Code: 317-04-79

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

Support the Training of Seminarians in South Sudan

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 09:24

Every new vocation is a sign of hope for the future. Hence it is a source of great joy that there are 21 young men currently preparing for ordination in the diocesan seminary. The downside is that the Bishop has no resources to fund their training. Can you help?

South Sudan is the youngest country in the world today. In 2011, when the predominantly Christian and animist South of the country finally declared its independence from the overwhelmingly Muslim North, after a quarter of a century of bloody civil war, there was great rejoicing. Sadly, the joy did not last long. In 2013, South Sudan slipped back into a new civil war. And once again – as in so many other countries around the world – the Church is the only institution in which the suffering people can place their trust.

With an area of over 31,000 square miles, the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio is almost the size of South Carolina. The shortage of priests here is acute; many parishes do not have any priest at all. But even where there is a priest, he has to minister to an area so vast and with so many remote and widely scattered villages that the faithful in the local communities can only rarely receive the sacraments. As a result, many Catholics die without the last rites of the Church, many children remain unbaptized and the ordinary faithful are left longing to be able to attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion. Consequently, one of the most pressing concern of the diocese is to provide its future priests with a good and solid formation.

Every new vocation is a sign of hope for the future. Hence it is a source of great joy that there are 21 young men currently preparing for ordination in the diocesan seminary. The downside is that the Bishop has no resources to fund their training. Often the parents of the seminarians have nothing, having lost everything in the war; they have been uprooted and expelled from their homes, seen their houses burnt down and their few possessions looted.

“We are turning to our fellow Christians, hoping you can help us to train up our seminarians, so that they can become priests and serve the suffering people in our country, and at the same time become promoters of peace,” writes the rector of the seminary to us. His bishop also supports his request with these memorable words: “I do not want to see the future of the Church crumble in my hands.”

They have asked for our help. We have promised them $20,600.

Will you help us fulfill this promise to support these future priests in South Sudan? We are sure they will remember you in their grateful prayers.

Code: 166-02-79

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Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.

ACN delegation surveys state of Islamist terror in Nigeria

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 11:22

"The attacks by Boko Haram and the Fulani are only the tip of the iceberg."

By Maria Lozano

NEW YORK (March 28, 2017)—The Nigerian army has made great progress in combatting Boko Haram, but the country still suffers from the aftermath of the group’s years-long reign of terror in Nigeria’s north-east. That was the finding of a delegation from international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which just returned from a fact-finding mission to Nigeria.

A spate of suicide attacks linked to Boko Haram has hit the city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, in recent weeks. This is where Boko Haram began as an initially non-violent Islamist movement. The region is home to some 20 government-run camps housing thousands of Nigerians driven from their homes by Boko Haram. At least 50,000 IDPs are stranded in Maiduguri.

According to the UN, Boko Haram has affected the lives of 26 million people. The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri alone has registered more than 5,000 widows and 15,000 orphans. The ACN delegation heard agonizing testimonies of some of the victims—women forced to watch their husbands’ throats cut, priests who had to secretly evacuate dozens of children from the schools, people who survived for weeks by hiding in their homes; and men and women caught and tortured by the group.

The delegation also took stock of new forms of Islamist terror perpetrated by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, who—notably in the Diocese of Kafanchan, in the south of Kaduna State—have brutally attacked villages inhabited by Christian farmers. Since 2011, no fewer than 71 attacks on villages have left almost 1000 dead, destroyed more than 2700 homes and 20 churches. Nomadic Fulani herdsmen have historically clashed with farmers, but the current wave of attacks have featured the use of sophisticated weaponry, which points at parties funding the violence.

Maria Lozano, who heads ACN’s international press and media department, said: “The attacks by Boko Haram and the Fulani are only the tip of the iceberg; Christians living in the states of northern Nigeria with a Muslim majority suffer constant discrimination and have been the victims of ongoing cycles of attacks decades. The West is barely aware of these abuses.”

She continued: “Catholics are living in constant danger, yet their churches are full. The people of Nigeria are truly thirsting for God. The Church is growing, and this is why they are being attacked—Muslim fundamentalists see Christians as a threat.” ACN is funding a number of projects in the country, including the construction of new churches and chapels, as well as the support of seminarians.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, saluted the ACN delegation, saying: “This visit brought to prominence the need for pastoral solidarity between the Church of other continents and Africa. Relationships should not be formed or based only on television, newspaper or radio reports or letters through posts or emails.

"Such a warm, friendly visit by the 14 men and women bound together by the mission and vision of ACN, who came to celebrate the ‘sacrament of presence’ in Nigeria is a veritable witnessing in love.”

The archbishop also said that “the visit was therapeutic to a people traumatized by natural disasters, the menace of criminals and religious fanatics, persecution, discrimination and the challenges of daily life.”

Nigerian seminarians in Kaduna; ACN photo

Iraq: ISIS gravely damaged 12,000-plus Christian homes on the Nineveh Plain

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 09:41

Cared for by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, with significant support from ACN, there are still 14,000 Christian IDP families who fled from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain living in Erbil.

By ACN staff 

NEW YORK—ISIS damaged more than 12,000 private homes in 12 Christian villages on the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq. Close to 700 homes were completely destroyed. These were some of the findings of a damage assessment commissioned by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). According to the study, the costs for repairing and rebuilding homes will exceed $200M.

The assessment initiative also queried 1,500 families who fled to Erbil, Kurdistan, after ISIS swept through the Nineveh Plain the summer of 2014 as to their potential plans for returning to their abandoned villages. More than 40 percent indicated that they wanted to return, and 46 percent said that they were considering it.

Last November, an ACN survey found that only just over 3 percent of nearly 6,000 IDP families were considering returning to their home villages. Of course, last fall there will still combat operations on the Nineveh Plain, with ISIS militants launching stealth attacks.

In the latest survey, more than half of respondents reported that their possessions had been plundered, while 22 percent said that their houses had been destroyed. About a quarter of respondents was unable to provide any information on the current condition of their homes and belongings. However, more than 25 percent also reported that their vital documents had been stolen by ISIS.

In Kurdistan—and cared for by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, with significant support from ACN—there are still 14,000 Christian IDP families who fled from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain living in Erbil. That total makes for approx. 90,000 people, down from the original 120,000 who sought shelter in Erbil in the summer of 2014.

Damaged residence in Qaraqosh, Nineveh Plain; ACN photo

 

 

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